Friday, July 28, 2006

The dream team

In my last post, I mentioned how I wished the cute guy from House was my doctor. That got me to thinking: Which fictional doctor(s) would you like overseeing your care? I've put together my own medical team. I invite you to do the same.

First pick, of course, is Dr. Carter from ER. I'm talking about the mid-'90s Carter -- the cute, preppy, good-hair Carter, not the "I got stabbed, and now I'm on drugs and Dr. Benton had to take me to the rehab clinic, and now I'm all fat and scruffy and going to Africa every five seconds" Carter.

Then we have J.D. from Scrubs. Zach Braff and I have the same birthday. Same year, too.

And you can't forget Dr. Baker from Little House on the Prairie. He'd drive his wagon right out to your farm, and you could pay him in chickens. If something really horrible happened, like, say, you suddenly went blind, he could refer you to a specialist in Mankato.

And, finally, Hawkeye.

Who is on your dream team? Dr. McCoy? Dr. Huxtable? Doogie? Let me know.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This old House

I've finally started watching the TV show House on DVD and I love it (Netflix is a glorious thing. I think everyone should sign up). It's about a horribly cranky doctor who hates his patients but is brilliant at diagnosing weird conditions. All of the other doctors will look for the most obvious thing ("This woman has a brain tumor!"), while Dr. House will put together all of these subtle clues and then reveal that she doesn't have a brain tumor after all! It's a tapeworm in her leg!*

It makes me think I should go see Dr. House: "You don't have myeloma after all! It's a tapeworm in your leg!" A worm I could handle. Karen the Killer Bullfrog could eat it.

I also like House because the oncologist is played by the guy from Dead Poets Society who killed himself because he couldn't be in a play. I always thought that was a stupid reason to kill oneself (well, unless it was a really cool play, like Bye, Bye, Birdie), but I've always really liked that guy. I wish he was my oncologist.

* Actual plot of the pilot episode. Seriously.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pods and smashed frogs

Thanks to my neighbor Rob, we now have an Official Nickname for my Mayo Clinic jug: The Pee Pod.

I wish I only had to put two pees in the pod; unfortunately, it has to be 24 hours' worth.

I also wanted to clear up a comment that my sister left about my childhood pet frog. The particular frog she was talking about did not escape. I released him into the wild at Big Lake in Council Bluffs (yes, past citizens of Council Bluffs were creative enough to come up with a name like "Big Lake") because the crickets he ate cost 75 cents a week. It was coming out of my allowance, and, whoa, that was pretty steep. I like to imagine that he is still alive, 20 years later, fat on free crickets, and enjoying life.

I did have another frog, though, who lived out on the front porch, and he did escape. One morning, I noticed his cage was empty. Later that day, I was riding my scooter down the street and noticed a frog-shaped stain in the Grahams' driveway. Oh, it was incredibly traumatic. Then again, riding that scooter almost always ended in trauma. It was homemade: two pieces of wood nailed together with old roller skates nailed onto the bottom. It was held together by a couple of Wall Drug bumper stickers and the Will of God. I fell off that thing onto the cement on a daily basis. I think I had non-stop skinned knees for about three years.

At least I lived to tell about my cement encounters, which is more than Smashed Frog can say.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Karen was a bullfrog ... was a good friend of mine ...

Ah, what a fun weekend. Our friends Elizabeth and Spencer were here from Omaha with their two little boys, ages three and one. The one-year-old is WCG -- World's Cutest Godson, although Elizabeth told me I should refer to him as NB -- Naughty Baby. He's just very free-spirited and likes to climb stairs and laugh about it.

They're both very sweet kids. The three-year-old likes to play with toy cars from the movie Cars. I haven't seen the movie, but I now know that the purple one is named Ramon, the red one is named Lightning, they're best friends, and they like to drive around the living room. A lot.

We got photos of all three of kids together in the bathtub. I'm going to need to start a file: "Photos to Show WCB's Prom Date in 2022."

On Saturday, we all went to Science City, a kids' science museum at Union Station in Kansas City. I was hanging around the animal display when Jay came sprinting up to me with some marvelous news: One of the frogs on display was named Karen.

Sure enough:

It was a little upsetting, because, well, it wasn't the most attractive frog in the world. I'm a big fan of frogs in general, but take a look at this sucker:


The Internet article I found said that they have loud, obnoxious voices and are very aggressive and will attack people. I'm sure poor Karen The Frog is just misunderstood. If I had to live in a cage at the science museum, I'd attack people, too.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I still say "The M-Spikes" would be an excellent name for a band

In case any of you scientific types are interested, here's a link to some more information about M-spikes, which are indicators of abnormal protein in the blood of myeloma patients. As you may recall, my M-spike has been on the rise lately.

Lousy, stupid M-spike.

The information is provided by Teresa, a nurse practitioner who blogs about her husband's myeloma treatments. (An aside: Her husband, Richard, was diagnosed over seven years ago and is still going strong! ) Teresa even includes pictures of what an M-spike looks like on the graph that's included with your test results. Thanks, Teresa!

Monday, July 17, 2006

We're havin' a heat wave, a tropical heat wave

It is a GO-ZILLION degrees here in Kansas City. That's OK, though, because Jay bought me a slushie maker for our anniversary. Isn't that the traditional eighth-anniversary gift? The first anniversary is paper, the fiftieth anniversary is gold, the eighth anniversary is ... slushie maker. All of you Kansas Citians who are ready to wilt, just stop on by our house for a slushie. We have bubble gum, sour apple, and root beer. Each slushie has probably 80 grams of sugar in it. It's enough to make you go crazy Broadway style!

In other news, Jay's mom is here staying with us, so we were able to leave the house TWICE, like normal people. I set foot in a movie theater for the first time in over a year and got popcorn and everything. We saw Superman Returns. I think what I love most about the Superman movies is how stupid everyone is at The Daily Planet. Nobody noticed that Clark Kent returned from his five-year "vacation" on the same day that Superman returned from his five-year trip to his home world? Isn't Lois Lane supposed to be an investigative reporter? I spent four years in a college newspaper office, which mostly consisted of people who wanted to eat pizza, use the graphic designers' computers to play Tetris, and write reviews of the new Smashing Pumpkins CD, and I think even we would have picked up on that one. I'm starting to think The Daily Planet isn't a very good paper. Do you think the people of Metropolis just laugh at it and get all of their news from CNN?

On Friday, we actually went out to dinner. We made a feeble attempt to rejoin adult society by choosing a restaurant that lacked crayons, costumed characters handing out balloons, grilled cheese on the menu, or plastic silverware. Despite our sophisticated surroundings, it only took about five minutes for the conversation to turn back to the new hot topic at our house: "Why does WCB always get a poopy diaper the second you set her in the crib?"

"It's like the crib just makes her poop," said Jay, just as an unsuspecting waitress arrived at our table to take our drink orders. Busted. We are not ready to survive in crayon-free society.

Friday, July 14, 2006

What does the Mayo Clinic look like?

Why, I'm so glad that I pretended that you asked me that question, because I just happened to take a few photos on our last visit. The clinic is made up of numerous buildings, and according to a "Mayo Facts" pamphlet I picked up while we were waiting around, the entire clinic is 2.9 times the size of The Mall of America. The two main buildings are the Mayo Building (of course) and the Gonda Building. Who was Gonda? I'm not sure. It sounds like a Muppet.

Here's one I took while standing right under the Gonda Building, which is where my doctor's office is located:

A couple better ones of the Gonda Building and the entrance:

These are some cool glass sculpture things inside the Gonda lobby:

And here's a statue of the Mayo brothers, the two doctors who started the clinic:

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Return of the Jug

Yesterday, I got a nice surprise in the mail: Another giant pee jug from the Mayo Clinic. Woo!

I also got my official schedule of tests (blood, pee, x-rays, meeting with Dr. Hayman), so everything's all set up for us to go back at the end of August. That seems really soon, but it'll be exactly eight weeks since my last appointment. We're wondering how often we can keep going back there, but we're just going to take it one appointment at a time.

I'm thinking I should come up with a code name for the pee jug. That way I won't have to keep typing "pee jug" all of the time, and you all won't have to read the words "pee jug" every five minutes. Aren't you getting sick of the pee jug? Pee jug, pee jug, pee jug. See?

I'm thinking something like Betty Lou, or Millicent, or Earl. How funny would that be? "I got some odd looks when I carried Earl into the ladies' room with me," or "Don't let WCB crawl into the bathroom; Earl is in there!"


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eight years and Stinky Feet

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. It's been eight years! That's like two presidential administrations. That's like all of high school and college combined. That's like going from a newborn to a third-grader. It doesn't seem like that long at all.

We didn't do anything special to celebrate yesterday, but Jay's mom is coming into town later in the week, so we might actually be able to leave the house without WCB. I have a dim memory of something called a "movie theater" and something else called "a restaurant that does not hand out crayons" but I'm not sure if these are actual things or just stuff I might have dreamed about once. It'll be weird to go out without WCB. Remember when Mike and Carol Brady left for their honeymoon, and they couldn't stop talking about the kids, and so they finally broke down and went back home and got the kids and Tiger and Alice and brought them on the honeymoon with them? It's going to be like that.

In other news: Yesterday I took WCB to see Mr. Stinky Feet live in concert at the public library. If you've never heard of Mr. Stinky Feet, obviously you do not have a child under the age of five in the Kansas City metro area. He is a pleasant-looking, 40-ish man in a Hawaiian-print shirt and a baseball cap who plays the guitar and sings. KIDS. LOVE. HIM. Even though Mr. Stinky Feet does try to emphasize the importance of sitting on your bottom and quietly raising your hand, it was still a little bit like watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Those kids went nuts. We left a little bit early, just before babies started flinging their diapers on stage and the preschoolers formed a mosh pit. Craziness.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Vacation in review: When bees attack

We got home from Minnesota last night. Other than having to haul around a jug of my own pee, throwing up in the parking lot, getting stuck with needles, finding out that my abnormal protein is on the rise, and, worst of all, discovering that the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts location has closed at Mall of America, it was a really nice family vacation.

No, really, it was. I've experienced worse. There was the time my parents made me go white-water rafting, and ... oh, I can't talk about it.

We took WCB to White Bear Lake, Minnesota, a beautiful little suburb of St. Paul, where Jay and I lived for three years before we moved back to Kansas City. We walked around the lake and then went to a little festival downtown, where they had a little petting zoo. WCB was more into pointing than petting, but she really enjoyed it for a long time until a sheep tried to nibble on her toes.

We took her to The Mall, of course, and to a barbecue with friends, and to the Minnesota Children's Museum. WCB even got to spend a day hanging out with her future husband, Tom, age 2, but I'm beginning to have doubts about the marriage. She kept touching his Thomas the Train trains, and Tom made it very clear that he can't abide any woman who touches his trains. Maybe they can work it out in therapy.

Speaking of therapy: Something happened to WCB that I'm sure will haunt her for the rest of her life. We took her to eat at an Old Country Buffet. (Yes, I know that sounds traumatizing enough, but there's more.) Say what you will about good old Old Country, but it is the perfect place to take a baby. Kids under 2 get in free, and all of her favorite foods were right there at the salad bar: watermelon, cheese, green beans, oranges, cottage cheese. It's a baby feast.

So, there we were having a delightful time with WCB's cottage cheese, when the Old Country Buffet Bee began making his rounds. This was a guy in an enormous bee costume who was handing out balloons. WCB was terrified of the Old Country Bee. Whenever he passed by, she would forget all about her baby feast and shriek hysterically. The Old Country Bee kept passing our table, quite possibly because he is pure evil.

Jay and I started keeping a watchful eye for the Old Country Bee, so that we could take WCB out of her high chair and distract her before things got ugly again.

"Oh my God," I said, dropping my fork, "It's the bee."

We swung into action, struggling to unbuckle WCB's little seat belt as the bee drew ever nearer. It was like a scene from a movie in which the characters have 10 seconds to dismantle a bomb. You could almost hear the theme from Mission: Impossible.

Dun, dun, dun, dundun dun

The bee is by the meat-carving area.

Dun, dun, dun, dundun dun

He's approaching the dessert bar.

Doodly doo! Doodly doo!

WCB is out of her seat, and ...


Despite our quick thinking, we failed to distract WCB from the OCB. We ended up leaving two plates of food and skipping our trip to the dessert bar. Curse you, Old Country Bee!

But other than that, again: Fun trip. Seriously.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

One more thing

If you ever visit the Mayo Clinic, be sure to visit the Patient Education Center. It has a wall display of all kinds of weird things that have been x-rayed, including a bat, a mummy, and a snake that swallowed two light bulbs.

Now, I can understand a near-sighted snake maybe swallowing one light bulb, but I would think he'd pause for a moment: "There was something ... different about the mouse I just ate . It was ... much more ... glassy-tasting than usual."

Something suddenly came up ...

... and it's my M-spike. Thanks a lot, Marcia Brady! There's no way I'm voting for you for head cheerleader now!

My M-spike -- that's the measurement of the abnormal protein in my blood -- was 3.8 in April. Now it's up to 4.2.

"That's a pretty chubby number," said my doctor.

Great. Even my blood has trouble fitting into its old jeans.

The good news is there's still nothing else wrong with me. My iron level went down a tiny bit, but it's still (barely) within the normal range. My doctor's still recommending no treatment right now, but she'd like me to have tests every two months rather than every three months, and she'd like me to have another round of x-rays at my next appointment, just to make sure my bones are still OK. Jay and I decided we'd like to come back here in September rather than going to my Kansas City guy. It's a pain to travel so far, but we feel like this is the best place to be.

Not the greatest news, but I think the best way to deal with it is to go into denial and spend too much money at The Mall of America this week. Now let's redo my doctor's appointment and give it a Scooby-Doo ending:

Doodly do, doodly do, doodly do, doodly do ...

DOCTOR: It turns out this cancerous bone-marrow doesn't belong to you at all! It belongs to ... (pulls a rubber mask off of an innocent-looking intern to reveal an angry old man)

KAREN: Old Man Withers -- the owner of the haunted amusement park!!

OLD MAN WITHERS: And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!

Ah, Scooby-Doo. Soothes the soul.

Cancer Girl: On Location

Here we are in Rochester. We got here last night. WCB handled the car ride very well. Cancer Girl did not.

Anyone who knows me knows about my infamous trouble with motion sickness. I don't go on amusement park rides. I don't even like to look at amusement park rides. I won't set one toe on an airplane unless I've been severely drugged up with Dramamine since at least one hour prior to driving to the airport. On our honeymoon eight years ago, Jay dragged me onto the "Star Tours" Star Wars ride at Disney World. As I was being tossed around a galaxy far, far away, I wondered how hard it would be, really, to get the marriage annulled. I spent a good 30 minutes sitting on the floor of the Endor Vendor gift shop, whimpering that I needed a Sprite. Jay later bought me a Peter Ellenshaw Winnie-the-Pooh print, which hangs in our dining room to this day, a grim reminder of what happens when you do not heed Your Wife's Motion Sickness Warning.

So. Anyway. After a full day of riding in the back seat to keep WCB occupied (We did make one stop in Ames, IA to see my sister, brother-in-law, and niece: WCB, Under-One-Year Category), I was a little green by the time we reached Rochester. I opened the car door and, um, decorated the hotel parking lot with my lunch.

Yeah. Gross. I'm feeling much better now. But gross. Let's move on.

It's a beautiful day in Rochester. This morning, Jay, the big pee jug, and I walked outdoors from the hotel to the Hilton Building (Desk C- The most happenin' desk in all of the Mayo Clinic) for my blood draw. Right before I got to the blood check-in desk, I ran into my sister's friend Marla from high school. It's a small world.*

So now the blood people have my blood, and the pee people have my pee, and we just wait around until 3 p.m. to see the doctor. An update will follow.

*That's the one amusement park ride I can tolerate. Unfortunately, nobody else can.

Monday, July 03, 2006

And we're off!

Tomorrow morning, WCB, Jay, Marcia Brady, and I will pile into the car and leave for Minnesota. Wish us luck.

I've been getting a lot of questions about the visit to Mayo: Everything from "What kinds of tests are you going to have?" (Just blood and urine tests) to, "When will you get your results?" (Only a few hours after the blood is drawn) and even, "Will you need to spend the night in the hospital?" (Noooooo! Not at all!) I thought I'd try to explain how a Mayo visit works.

After I called to make this appointment, I received a schedule in the mail telling me where I need to be and at what time. This visit, I only need to drop off my 24-hour-urine jug, which was mailed to me in advance, and have my blood drawn at 9 a.m. We're going to be staying at a hotel that's connected to the clinic by an underground tunnel, so it will be easy for me to go right to my morning blood test and back to the hotel. The underground-tunnel feature doesn't seem all that exciting in July, but when we visited in January, we were very grateful that we didn't have to go outside. Minnesota winters make me cranky, even when I'm wearing my giagantic silver down-filled coat that makes me look like the Tin Man on sterioids. Other hotels in Rochester offer free shuttle-bus service from the door of the hotel to the clinic. It's like Disney World with needles.

Then we wait around until 3 p.m., when I have an appointment to talk with my doctor, Dr. Hayman, who will already have all of my results and will be ready to go over them with us. Last time we were there, she pulled everything up on her computer screen, and we went over all of the numbers.

The first times I went to Mayo, I needed quite a few more tests, including x-rays, an EKG, a bone-marrow biopsy, and a bone-density scan. Again, I received a printout telling me where to go and a map of the clinic. The clinic is enormous and has numerous buildings, but it's pretty easy to get around by following maps and signs. The schedule has a barcode on it; when you check in for each appointment, the desk worker scans in your code and instantly knows who you are and what you need to have done. Of course, they always double check that it's really you by asking you to give your birthday or spell your name. I rarely needed to wait around and usually went quickly from one appointment to the next.

That's it in a nutshell. More questions? Post them here! We're hoping that our hotels will have good Internet access, so I'll try to write from the road. If I can't, I'll be back here next week. Happy Fourth!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Big 100

This is my 100th post on this blog. I keep expecting balloons and confetti to drop down out of the ceiling. Cue the marching band!

That's a lot of posting. According to legend, my first full sentence was, "Mommy, get off the phone!" I'm guessing that WCB's first full sentence is going to be, "Mommy, get off the blog!" If it's not that, it's going to be, "Mommy, stop eating all of my Teddy Grahams!" That would be a pretty futile request, though. I'm hooked on the Grahams. I'm like a crack addict. Mmm .... cinnamon-flavored, bear-shaped crack.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Climb ... every ... mountain!

I have horrifying news.

WCB has learned how to climb the stairs.

At first, she'd just climb the first three stairs and then hang out on the landing for a while. This morning, however, she made it all the way to the second floor. This is no small feat. We have a pretty tall, steep stairway. Somebody her size sitting at the bottom of those stairs and looking up probably thinks they look like this:

And yet she made it to the top without Sherpa guides.